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A Roadtrip. A Tattoo. A Damn Good Story.


I want to tell you about my new tattoo.

It’s a bold scrawl underlined in red, bleeding across my chest and onto my arm.

It’s only a few days old. Today it feels like a sunburn. This week a layer of skin will peel and flake away as I heal and the ink becomes part of me.

But to tell you about this tattoo, I need to tell you a story.

Let’s start here:


North Carolina.

God, I have lived and died a hundred times in North Carolina. And today, I’m dying.

I know this road. This twisting, grey-on-grey-on-grey ribbon of pavement winding toward Tennessee. Last time I drove it was September, as we limped away from Charlotte. I was driving a moving truck that day, hauling what was left of our home taped up in boxes in the back, screaming and crying and swearing at God and beating my fist against the steering wheel.

Now I’m curled up in the passenger seat of Stephen’s white Monte Carlo staring at the rain streaking down the windows. We’re less than a week into 2015, less than a day into a road trip that will carry us clear across the entire continent. I’m dying.

In this rain-soaked moment, a song I’ve never heard before comes on the radio:

I hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
I hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

I did it all.  I  did it all.
I owned every second
That this world could give
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived.

Looking out at North Carolina rushing past with that dance beat pulsing from the beat-up speakers, I smile.

With every broken bone, I thought I would die. But I swear… I lived.


a few days later…


January 6, 2015

Look at us! We are alive. Standing in a crowed basement bar listening to live jazz. We are fucking alive. And nobody will ever know. There’s just this moment, this one perfect moment. When we are on a road trip, in Denver, with cheap PBR and live jazz.

My life is in God’s hands. I am being healed. One step at a time. (Keep walking.) I don’t know where I will arrive. I do not know who I will be when I arrive. I want to find out.

There is a place where I am free. Where I am unafraid. Where my worst fears have rushed past me and I remain. There is a place where air fills my lungs and love fills my heart and it is enough.

I’m still here. Alive and full of hope. Living a damn good story.

We keep following the adventure westward.

Every day more filled with hope and with oxygen; every day more alive.

This itself is a miracle. (You would know, if you’d seen me stumbling down the sidewalk in Minneapolis those first days of winter, breathing cigarettes and wondering how to survive another day.)



I’ve never been to Utah before, and now I’m walking up a red dirt trail and breathing cold air right into my lungs and my mind is racing. Surrounded by a landscape straight out of another planet, all I can see is my own fear and anxiety crowding in the edges of my vision, screaming in my mind.

“Can you live? Can you live? Can you live? do you think you’ll survive this shit really? do you think you’ll live again? you won’t. you can’t. your story is over.”

but then a quieter voice whispers:

“Look. Look at yourself, in this moment. Surrounded by wild desert and patchy snow and big blue sky. Are you alive?”

Yes. Very much alive.

“Look at you. You lived. You have lived. And you will lived.”

(With every broken bone, I swear.)


The days all blur together now,  hope and despair and adventure and fear all colliding at once in my heart over and over. Miles and miles of open road and blue skies and blazing sunsets.

Denver. Salt Lake. Vegas. Hollywood.

Prayers scrawled out across those lined pages, littered with swear words and bits of light. That song on the radio again and again and again.

And finally, at the end of it all, the ocean:


January 13, 2015

I’ve walked clear across this entire fucking country in six months, by car and plane and moving truck and a broken heart but I swear I lived.

And here at the edge of the sea I am reminded of how far I have come, how much I have seen, how much my heart has already healed. Here at the edge of the sea, where pain and hope crash together over me like the waves crashing over the rocks and swirling around my feet.

Do you remember the Atlantic? The harsh sand, the waves lapping around your feet, the fucking hole torn in your chest? Look at you now. A world away. So alive.

This ocean is so unfamiliar, so wild and beautiful, so different from the one I once called home. California waters shine with three shades of green layered over blue. Purple and pink mix in at sunset like a bruise, like pain. But I am alive. So damn alive. And if I am alive after all this, surely the best is yet to come.

There is no end to grief. That’s how I know there is no end to love. But in this moment, I am alive. I am whole. I am loved.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Do not forget this.

The next day I got on a plane and flew home.

And so I would never forget, I went to a tattoo shop on Lake Street last Friday afternoon and had those words carved into my chest.

God knows this journey isn’t close to over. I’ve lived and died a hundred times, and I may die a few more.

In many ways, I’m still staring down that long freeway toward the sunset, willing myself to drive another mile.

I still do not know where I will I arrive, or who I will become. But I know that I am not alone, that I am being healed, that I am carried by infinite Love.

And I know that when I reach the last chapter of this long and winding story, I’ll look back over it all and say

I lived.

published February 2, 2015

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